Welcome to Sunshine and Stilettos!

A collection of stories and images from a traveler, serial expat, lover of culture and lawyer turned travel photographer and writer.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, I had my first passport by age six, lived on three continents, and survived three school systems (French, British, American).

In 2008, I decided that life was too short not to do work I love every single day. I took a leap of faith and left my legal career behind to travel long term–six weeks was the initial plan–and find inspiration. Six weeks turned into five months.  Five months led me to a new path.

During the last seven years traveling long term in the Caribbean region–living in Jamaica, Grenada and Belize, among other places–I discovered my long-time love for writing and photography and for documenting life, culture and people in different parts of the world. I had finally figured out my purpose: telling stories, through words and images.

Becoming a Travel Photographer, Writer & Guidebook Author

Sunshine and Stilettos launched in 2009. My initial aim was to share photographs and stories with friends on my life as a solo female traveler on the road.

In time, my blog and Flickr collections grew from being a past time to attracting tourism boards, photo editors as well as a wide audience of avid travelers.

A year after being on the road and landing assignments as a self-taught photographer, my images were published online in the UK Guardian, and in print on Lonely Planet Travel Magazine. A few months later, I was commissioned for a major photo shoot for the Grenada Tourism Board, for their website and print ads.

In 2010, I took a travel photography course to enhance my knowledge on the business of photography – from social networking to publication.

In the summer of 2011, I traveled across Belize for three months as a full-time writer, blogger and photographer for the Belize Tourism Board. I realized that I wanted to write as much as photograph.


All of these experiences and hard work led to a bigger road and a dream come true: becoming a travel guidebook author for MOON Travel Guidebooks. My first edition of MOON BELIZE (Avalon Travel/Perseus Books) published in November 2013, in full color for the first time. I also had the pleasure of landing the book cover photo, in addition to providing all the interior photography.

In 2013, on the heels of my first guidebook, I began authoring a second title for Moon Guides, MOON BELIZE CAYES, focusing on Belize’s offshore islands. More recently, in March 2015, I was assigned to write a first edition of MOON DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, to be released in Fall 2016.

Aside all my guidebook work, I’ve had the honor of taking on several travel writing and photography assignments–from print to web, front of book to feature articles–as well as editing for major publications, and I saw my work published in several outlets, including CNN Travel, MorningCalm Magazine, BBC Travel, AFAR, New York Magazine, Delta Sky, Every Day With Rachael Ray, and more.

In 2016, I was honored with the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Marcia Vickery-Wallace Award for Excellence in Journalism–a highlight of my career.

Among my more recent successes: a partnership with the Dominican Republic Tourism Board, who hired me to strategize on, revise and write 100% of the text for their newly redesigned website GoDominicanRepublic.com (releasing in 2018); and a position as Editor-in-Chief of Destination Belize Magazine, Belize’s number one tourism publication from the Belize Tourism Industry Association.

My Blogging Philosophy

Sunshine and Stilettos (and my photography) will continue to be a place to inspire cultural and adventure travel to the Caribbean. I write about what moves and don’t necessarily stick to “top 10” lists. I believe in variety, and every week won’t be the same. My purpose is to pull you into my screen and make you feel as if you’re right there with me. To show that the world is a beautiful place, and much safer than people believe, even for solo female travelers.

When my visits are sponsored, I will clearly state this. Rest assured that I only post positive reviews when I truly back a place or activity.

My mission remains to share and show the beauty that surrounds, reflected in the people and cultures I encounter. To push for responsible and immersive travel. And to show that it’s never too late to pursue what you truly love.

To view my most-read blog articles as well as some of my favorite pieces (including photography), please click here. A complete list of my published work is here. You can also view my main website and portfolio, or just daydream through my images from around the Caribbean region.


  1. lorraine 17 August, 2010 at 5:39 AM #

    Ready to gush! Packing for my journey! Site looks great, lily.
    One Love

  2. SharaJ 9 March, 2011 at 9:44 PM #

    I love the new site Lily! Following you now on Twitter 🙂 YOu look so happy. I’m so glad you’re finding that peace and balance. Can’t wait to see what else you have in store!!! Take care of yourself!

  3. lilyg 11 March, 2011 at 10:04 PM #

    Thank you Shara! I truly appreciate your support and for following my blog! Feel free to share with friends. Great to hear from you!! Bless,

  4. Sheldon Bernard 18 April, 2011 at 7:01 PM #

    You are truly talented and your passion emanates. I could view your art for hours. You go Miss Globe Trotter.

  5. lilyg 18 April, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

    Thank you so much Sheldon! And coming from a fellow talented artist, I am truly flattered. 🙂 Thanks for checking out my site and I hope you will be visiting often to follow along my photo & cultural journey with me!

  6. Karen Goodman 28 August, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

    I am inspired. I’ve been blogging since 2007 as a way to promote my business (real estate) but my dream is to do what you are doing. Someday.

  7. Shannon 28 February, 2012 at 9:57 AM #

    I was brought to your blog from the Matador U website and I must say I’m very jealous of your lifestyle! It must be great to be able to travel around doing what you love. Good luck and thanks for sharing your stories!

  8. Lebawit Lily Girma 28 February, 2012 at 10:43 AM #

    It is great, though it takes a lot of sacrifice as well! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for your kind wishes!

  9. Jacquelyn Hughes Moo 13 May, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

    OMG I am so delighted to discover you & your wanderings!

  10. Lebawit Lily Girma 13 May, 2012 at 5:34 PM #

    Thanks, Jacquelyn! I see you want to move abroad to Belize. That’s also my goal for 2013 – and to make it permanent. My next post actually touches on that, you can subscribe or come back and visit to read about my upcoming plans. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

  11. Leila 20 May, 2012 at 8:30 AM #

    Just wanted to tell u how much I love ur site and the recent photo of rootz concert amazing

  12. Lebawit Lily Girma 20 May, 2012 at 11:25 AM #

    Thanks so much dear! 🙂

  13. Monica Suma 24 May, 2012 at 9:44 PM #


    I love your blog and your story. I am a travel writer that aspires to become a full-time travel writer, which is why I just signed up for the MatadorU program as well. I wanted to follow you on Twitter and for some reason, it says page does not exist.

  14. Lebawit Lily Girma 24 May, 2012 at 10:36 PM #

    Hi Monica, welcome to my page! Thanks for your kind comments. 🙂 Please try this link to follow me on Twitter (and I’ll look into what happened on the blog): http://twitter.com/suandstilettos

    I am also very active on Facebook, please join me there and send me your link also if you’re set up: http://facebook.com/sunandstilettos

    And congrats on taking a step towards your dreams!

  15. Mike 27 November, 2012 at 12:14 AM #

    Hi Lilly,

    Amazing Photo’s, you truly are talented! It’s great seeing people follow their heart and do what makes them truly happy. Safe travels!

  16. Lebawit Lily Girma 28 November, 2012 at 9:22 PM #

    Hi Mike, thanks very much for your kind note and for your feedback! 🙂 Safe travels to you also!

  17. Ms Agelgil 28 February, 2013 at 5:49 AM #

    Hi Lily,
    I love your blog, especially your pictures. They take me back to Columbia and Venezuela. I miss the breeziness. I will travel to Brasil soon as Ethiopian Airlines is launching the route. Check out my blog and spread the word. Would be nice to hear your feedback. Keep shining!

  18. Lebawit Lily Girma 1 March, 2013 at 10:49 AM #

    Hi there! Thanks so much for your kind words, am glad you found me! Will check out your site for sure. All the best!

  19. Frank Nelms 6 April, 2013 at 6:09 PM #

    I was referred to your site by a friend who went to Dartmouth with me..both of us love to travel and your site is great…Keep up the good work.

  20. Lebawit Lily Girma 10 April, 2013 at 1:07 PM #

    Thanks, Frank! Great to hear and I appreciate the encouragement! Stay tuned as I’m headed to brand new destinations as early as this summer. 🙂

  21. Linda Rollins 24 June, 2013 at 8:02 AM #

    Hi Lily, I stumbled upon your site by accident as well..I have been surfing the web for info on Belize. I am very intrigued by this place and have been for 3 yrs. I plan to visit within the next 3 months and I already know that is where I would like to move. Presently I work and live in the Bahamas and I have been here for a year an a half and I am in love with Island life, the beauty, the tranquility and the slow pace , especially compared to the states ( I lived in Florida for the past 20 yrs but I’m from Ark). Since being here, I’ve learned to swim, snorkle, fish, I ride bikes and golf carts instead of cars. I would love to do what you’re doing. Right now all my friends live thru me on Facebook and if I go too long without posting pictures they get mad at me, lol..but I love taking pictures and I love culture and birds. Another friend told me I should do something that involves writing because as you can see once I start it’s hard to stop, lol…I have been known to write 3 page emails…:)Anyway keep up the great work and good luck with your move to Belize this year. Maybe I will see you there!

  22. Lebawit Lily Girma 25 June, 2013 at 9:13 AM #

    Hi Linda – Glad to have you here! How are the Bahamas to live? On writing, the best way to start is to have a blog and just write (though blog writing is different from journal writing). Best of luck on your move and I sure hope to be back there this year! Cheers!

  23. Jacob Harlan 31 July, 2013 at 6:04 PM #

    Hi Lily,

    Thanks so much for your post on Jamaican beaches and the beautiful photos! Quick question, on the Burwood Beach photo it shows hrs of Wed-Sun. Are they really closed on Mon and Tues? Was really hoping to hit most of the beaches on your list, and didn’t want to miss this one! I’m sure you’re super busy, so thank you in advance for your reply! 😉


  24. David Petrvalsky 29 August, 2013 at 5:37 PM #

    Lily, your photos are beautiful. Especially those from your Travel section. I’m happy anytime I hear about people “take a leap of faith” and make decision to do what they love to do. You rock Lily!

  25. Lebawit Lily Girma 3 September, 2013 at 3:40 PM #

    Hi David – Thanks very much for your kind words of encouragement and for stopping by to check out my work. Will look at your site as well, I’m always glad to connect with like minds!

  26. Nina 11 December, 2013 at 9:23 AM #

    Lilly your blog is amazing! As a up & coming blogger, I am so inspired by your ability to do it full time! You Rock! Take Care!

  27. Lebawit Lily Girma 22 December, 2013 at 3:30 PM #

    Thank you, Nina! It’s not my full time gig, just an extension of my portfolio.

  28. Rachel M 14 January, 2014 at 12:30 PM #

    I just stumbled upon your blog. As an up and coming travel blogger, It is encouraging to see a fellow African with a passion for travel. Cheers!

  29. Lebawit Lily Girma 21 January, 2014 at 6:21 PM #

    Thanks, Rachel!

  30. Tanya 29 April, 2014 at 6:28 PM #

    Hi Lily,

    A mutual colleague told me about your site. It is beautiful and inspiring! As a traveler, writer and photographer (and recovering attorney!) myself, I’m always thrilled to see others fulfilling their purpose and pursuing their passions. You rock :-)!

  31. Lebawit Lily Girma 8 May, 2014 at 2:37 PM #

    Thanks very much, Tanya! That is very kind of you to stop by and share. Looking forward to checking out your work as well.

  32. Beth 11 June, 2014 at 1:24 PM #

    Hi Lily, both my husband and i grew up in Ethiopia so you seem like family. Congrats on your success. We are now retired in Belize and would love to get our hands on your book. Who distributes them for you here. Delivery through Amazon would take too long as the post here is way to slow and unreliable. thanks.

  33. Lebawit Lily Girma 11 June, 2014 at 7:03 PM #

    Hi Beth! How wonderful! Thanks for your kind words and hope to meet you both when I’m back in Belize. I’m actually in the midst of planning distribution there, and will keep you posted. Another option is to have an expat who travels to US often to bring it down for you, perhaps? Will shoot you an email also. Thanks!!

  34. Emma Lewis 14 August, 2014 at 3:04 PM #

    Congratulations on this marvelous website. Your survey of Jamaican beaches is excellent – well described and well researched! I have lived in Jamaica for 26 years and confess I don’t actually know some of them at all! I recommend that you visit Grenada and Carriacou (I was there last summer) – real gems. Lovely photos. Thanks for showcasing some of our beautiful island (but of course Jamaica is about much more than beaches!)

  35. Lebawit Lily Girma 17 August, 2014 at 7:14 PM #

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comments, Emma! Those were beaches I discovered while traveling across the island, not even researching on purpose but doing what I love–to explore a place as much as I can. Indeed, Jamaica is beaches and so much more – that’s what I hope to show with my upcoming mini guide. Hope to see you back on the blog! You can also follow on Facebook where I update frequently: http://facebook.com/sunandstilettos
    One Love!

  36. Mekdela 2 April, 2015 at 5:58 PM #

    Beautiful pictures and website!! My husband and I will be traveling to Belize in May for our honeymoon and I am looking forward to visiting the places you suggested!


  37. Ray 25 June, 2015 at 3:46 PM #

    Hello, I stumbled upon this page while researching about Guadaloupe. I’m seriously considering a one week vacation with my wife and 3 year old son. We don’t speak any French (will have a phrasebook that’s about it) and am wondering if it will make renting/driving/taking ferry difficult?

  38. Lebawit Lily Girma 1 July, 2015 at 5:22 PM #

    Hi there! I am on the road on assignment and didn’t see your note. It will be a bit difficult in the countryside but people there are very understanding, in the tourist-areas at least. But I suggest you read up as much as you can in English before you leave. Have a great time. It’s gorgeous there.

  39. laura 5 August, 2015 at 4:06 PM #

    I love your website! loved the post about having hudutu in belize <3

  40. Lebawit Lily Girma 6 August, 2015 at 3:16 PM #

    Thanks very much, Laura! 🙂

  41. bernard 3 October, 2015 at 2:31 PM #

    Hello Lily, I enjoyed reading your story and how you’ve come to success! Are you still writing and traveling in Belize? I am asking on behalf of a friend that recently built one of the most unique and extreme resort developments in all of Belize. Here’s a link: http://www.swanvillasbelize.com. I hope if you have the opportunity to check it out. Thanks and keep up the wonderful work.


  42. Charmika 4 May, 2016 at 2:24 AM #

    Thank you for inspiring me I admire following dreams. Found your link on Guadeloupe it was moving on many levels. I booked my flight and am going in July. May Christ keep blessing you.

  43. Lebawit Lily Girma 4 May, 2016 at 9:26 AM #

    Thank you so much Charmika! Glad I could help. Have a wonderful, fun time in Guadeloupe (such a lovely place)!

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